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Oxford defines "cataract" as "a steep waterfall" as well as gives the more common meaning of the word i.e. the medical condition that causes a loss of sight.

Also, "cataract", as meaning "waterfall", is used in literature. The following is from Wordsworth's Intimation of Immortality

And I again am strong:
The cataracts blow their trumpets from the steep

This is an odd pair of meanings being of the same word. Is there is any reason why "cataract" means both "waterfall and "loss of sight"?

Thank you.

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    The wikipedia article on the medical condition offers a possible explanation for this: "As rapidly running water turns white, so the term may have been used metaphorically to describe the similar appearance of mature ocular opacities. In Latin, cataracta had the alternative meaning "portcullis" and the name possibly passed through French to form the English meaning "eye disease" (early 15th century), on the notion of "obstruction". – John Clifford Feb 2 '16 at 14:09
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    The effect of the eye disease that in medicine is called cataract is that your sight diminishes as if a veil of water is flowing over your eyes. It is as if you would look through a waterfall. But I must admit I don't understand your quote of Wordsworth. – rogermue Feb 2 '16 at 14:43
  • In medicine the Greek word cataract (waterfall) is used as a kind of shortened metaphor. The longer form could be "the cataract disease of the eye/eyes". – rogermue Feb 2 '16 at 17:59
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Actually, this was fairly easy to research. From Wikipedia:

"Cataract" is derived from the Latin cataracta, meaning "waterfall", and from the Ancient Greek καταρράκτης (katarrhaktēs), "down-rushing",[52] from καταράσσω (katarassō) meaning "to dash down"[53] (from kata-, "down"; arassein, "to strike, dash").[54] As rapidly running water turns white, so the term may have been used metaphorically to describe the similar appearance of mature ocular opacities. In Latin, cataracta had the alternative meaning "portcullis"[55] and the name possibly passed through French to form the English meaning "eye disease" (early 15th century), on the notion of "obstruction".[56] Early Persian physicians called the term nazul-i-ah, or "descent of the water"—vulgarised into waterfall disease or cataract—believing such blindness to be caused by an outpouring of corrupt humour into the eye.[57]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cataract

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